REVIEW: Planet Hollywood Observatory - Disney Springs

So much has been transforming in and around Orlando! Brand new venues are springing up, and familiar icons are unveiling dramatic aesthetic overhauls and revamped menus. I've always been a fan of Planet Hollywood, and I was thrilled to see the final product of the yearlong, $25 million remodel to its flagship "Observatory" location at the ever-evolving Disney Springs.

There's enough glitz and glamour within this colossal space to leave you feeling like an A-lister from the moment you enter! So, what's new at Planet Hollywood Observatory? 

For starters - a fresh paint job and spiffed-up facade can make a world of difference! The new exterior is just as eye-catching, but they went with a cleaner, more modern upscale look - toning down the loud, somewhat gaudy display put forth since the original opening in 1994.

The building serves as a four-story bar, restaurant, shop, and museum - to put it simply. New features include a 4,500 square-foot video wall incorporating innovative 3D technology, a 5,000 square-foot outdoor, open air terrace bar, and of course - a reimagined menu with feature contributions from celebrity foodie, Guy Fieri.
(Don't panic, Planet Hollywood loyalists... the Cap'n Crunch Chicken is still on the menu!!)
When you enter, you're immediately greeted by the impeccably courteous staff, sleek double stairway, and a few tantalizing bits of memorabilia to gawk at. As you reach the second level, take a moment to pause and discover the encased wardrobe tributes on display. I immediately honed in on Dorothy's gingham dress from
The Wizard of Oz beside a Walter White original from Breaking Bad, but then... something happened...

I know - too cool, right?? There's notable Hollywood collectibles throughout the entire building. While they don't all include an elaborate, psychedelic display, they do span generations and genres. Right behind our seating, we had three prominent franchises represented: Rocky, Hunger Games, and Jurassic Park. Personally, I LOVED the Riddler suit on the lower-level of the dining room. (I can't be the only one giggling over the giant Zagnut, either... am I right?)

But, even if you're not a Hollywood aficionado, you have to appreciate the extravagance of this dining room. It's an irresistible lure to all five senses. 

Remember that giant video wall I mentioned?

Talk about multi-purpose! The screen played through an assortment of ambient and musical videos. One moment, things were positively prehistoric... moments later, we were under the sea. We shook it off with Taylor Swift, relived a little Wayne's World moment with Queen, enjoyed everyone's favorite karaoke selection - "Don't Stop Believin'", and endured a building-wide "Let It Go" sing-along.

Special greetings and announcements can also be broadcast on the screen. Did I mention that the tables directly beneath the screen on the lower-level of the dining room have smaller versions of the presentation directly on their tabletops? It would be a shame for them to miss the entertainment, after all!

In a nutshell - this place is visually stunning! It's got all the bustling, vibrant energy of Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex, but you won't find an animatronic breathing down your neck or growling in your ear every 15 minutes. Where some may find the chaos of the more lively restaurants at Disney Springs to be intolerable, Planet Hollywood pulls off the entertainment-meets-dining experience without the element that some people find to be pushing the borders of obnoxious.

Arguably, the star of the show... the food (and drink)! We put ourselves into the very capable hands of Gary - a wonderfully friendly server with exquisite knowledge of the menu. I told him to start us off with his best suggestions of what we had to try. Gary should have warned us to pace ourselves, because the appetizer alone was a surprise of EPIC proportions! However, this really was the perfect suggestion for the whole family... the High Roller Platter.

The High Roller Platter is an assorted sampler from the appetizer menu, so this is THE choice for the indecisive group or couple. Serves four, but two people could very easily call this a meal on its own merit. Served on a "ferris wheel" serving platter, the High Roller Platter includes Chicken Crunch, Texas Tostados, Buffalo Wings, Five-Cheese Dip, and Fried Jumbo Shrimp. Nothing on the platter was less than awesome, but I did go a little gaga over the Texas Tostados.

Gary also had a few signature drinks to recommend. For the underaged, Pluto's Tea and The Orbiter combined fruity flavors in tall souvenir cups - and of course, they lit up... SCORE! For the big kids, his suggestions of Rocket Fuel and The Moonwalk were a hit. The Halley's Comet Planet Bowl was enough of a party to share. Once again - souvenir glasses with all of these but the Rocket Fuel. (Put it this way - I recently paid $14 for a small drink that was mostly ice, with one perfectly measured shot of alcohol at a local resort bar. For $16, I can get The Moonwalk in a tall souvenir glass with two kinds of liquor. This is a great deal - especially for Disney property dining!!)

I am somewhat ashamed to say that we actually carried on with eating after doing some pretty serious damage to the High Roller. Entree choices made the decision process a true challenge. Even with some seriously finicky eaters in our crew, everyone found numerous things that appealed to them. If you can accomplish that with this bunch, you should automatically win some special praise! So, what did we end up going with? 

St. Louis-Style BBQ Pork Ribs - smothered in BBQ sauce, and served with triple fries on the cutest little wooden picnic table. Bonus points for presentation, and every bit as tasty as it looks!

10oz. Bistro Sirloin Steak - served with steak fries, vegetable blend, and classic her butter. Melt-in-your-mouth tender steak and everything cooked to perfection!

Bird is the Word - a new, Guy Fieri original addition to the menu, this crispy fried chicken on Brioche sandwich comes topped with buttermilk ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, coleslaw, and honey hot sauce. Served with triple fries. A clever combination of flavors, and you can get your toppings served on the side if you want to be in control of portions, and aren't feeling so adventurous.

How could we visit Planet Hollywood without someone trying out the award-winning Bacon Mac-N-Cheese Burger? Yes, it's every bit as sinful as it sounds - but worth it! And I suppose this is where I have to admit that it was I who attempted to devour this behemoth. That's bacon, six-cheese mac-n-cheese, cheddar, fried onion straws, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Donkey sauce topping a burger on a Brioche bun. (No, I did not quite conquer it... and thank goodness, because Gary was about to show up with dessert suggestions!!) 

The Chocolate Comet Milkshake is a new Planet Hollywood favorite. This monster combines an assortment of chocolate varieties into one ooey-gooey, yummy mess. Not for the feint of stomach!

If you're feeling really crazy, have a melt down... Planet Melt Down, that is. This chocolate-shelled sphere reveals a treasure trove of nom when it meets with a warm caramel sauce. The photo doesn't quite do it justice. To truly grasp the awesome of the Planet Melt Down, check out this video:

Overall, we could find absolutely no fault with our Planet Hollywood Observatory experience. Even with our typically traditionalist leanings (I don't like... change), this was one overhaul we all happily embraced. I can't wait to return to check out another perspective - I think the outdoor terrace bar will be a new favorite hang out for me come autumn and winter!

For more information on Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs, visit their official site, or follow Planet Hollywood on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. View our full Planet Hollywood Observatory photo album.